"The whole aim of practical politics is to keep the populace alarmed—and hence clamorous to be led to safety—by menacing it with an endless series of hobgoblins, all of them imaginary." –H.L. Mencken
Our addiction to instant communications is doing grave harm to truth and the body politic. It's effectively turning us against each other while subsuming truth under an avalanche of lies, false narratives that have the potential to destroy our society, culture, or even our nation. No more do we take the time to investigate the basis of an accusation or the underpinnings of an advocated policy.
Last week, a group of teenage boys from a Covington Catholic High School were branded as racist thugs because the desire to be first led national media to incite a "Twitter lynch mob" against them. The truth emerged within a few days but a chastened media found it hard to retract false statements let alone apologize, instead attempting to find "something" that might justify their attack on a group of boys. Let's be clear: These boys represent all that the national media purports to hate. They were primarily white males (there were several black students among them as well) at a pro-life rally, who attend a private Catholic school. And worst of all, they had the temerity to visibly wear that hated symbol of President Trump, the "MAGA" hat in a public place! What's not to hate?
The media narrative initially reported that this group surrounded and harassed a Native American elder, blocked his way, shouted obscenities at him, and ridiculed him and his group celebrating Indigenous People's Day on the National Mall. Twitter exploded as did the heads of numerous celebrities, including several reporters posing as objective anchors for national news organizations.
What actually happened, if one watches the nearly two hours of recorded video, was that this group of youngsters had attended the Pro-Life National March for Life on a field trip to Washington, D.C. They had assembled on the Mall as directed to wait for their chartered buses to take them home. A hundred feet or so away was a group of five members of the Black Hebrew Israelites, a black-nationalist hate group that even the Southern Poverty Law Center condemns. This group, dating from the 19th century, openly advocates hatred of all whites, all Jews, all Christians of any flavor, including African-American Christians. This group spent nearly an hour berating first the Native American group and then re-directed their venom, heavily laced with profanity, obscene remarks, and sexual slurs, toward the Covington Catholic school group. The boys ignored them for most of an hour and then responded by conducting, with the permission of their chaperones, their school cheers to drown out the obscenities of the Black Hebrew Israelite group.
Enter one Nathan Phillips from the indigenous peoples group. He deliberately walked over to the center of the group of boys, beating a drum, getting to within inches of the face of one boy who stood in silence, who said nothing to Phillips. Yes, the boy (age 16) smiled, but that was his nervous reaction to the aggression of Phillips. None of the boys made any insulting or aggressive remarks toward Phillips or his group. The media reported the boys were doing "tomahawk chops" to mock Phillips but none of the video records that accusation and there were multiple recordings made of the incident. An accusation isn't evidence, but the media treated it as such.
Phillips, who had earlier in the day attempted to disrupt a mass at a national Catholic shrine in D.C., describes himself as a Vietnam veteran who had been harassed by the boys. In fact, Phillips provided several contradictory versions of the event to media, but all of the video and audio refuted everything he said. He's also not a Vietnam veteran but a poser engaging in stolen valor. In previous interviews, he claimed to be a "recon ranger" with the Marines in Vietnam but in actuality only served in the Marine Corps Reserve, not in combat but as a refrigeration technician who never left the states. He served from 1972 to 1976, well after all Marine combat units had been withdrawn from Vietnam. Retired Navy Seal Don Shipley said that Phillips' military records also indicate that he was AWOL (absent without leave) on multiple occasions and subject to repeated disciplinary actions. Yet he continues to lie about his service. The national media has found itself reluctant to repudiate him or the false narrative they created. The boys have been subjected to death threats along with their families and their school. A defamation suit is being pursued against some media and individuals on the boys' behalf.
As a nation, truth is becoming a routine casualty as an uninformed or misinformed public allows itself to be led down a primrose path, whether it's an emotionally charged narrative of racism or accepting without question economic policies that will decimate the lives of millions. It's time to wake up and step up; enough is enough or learn to "baa" like a sheep! Δ
Al Fonzi is an Army lieutenant colonel of military intelligence who had a 35-year military career, serving in both the Vietnam and Iraq wars. Send comments through the editor at firstname.lastname@example.org.